Political advertising, according to Simon Carr, ‘combines all the things voters most dislike about politics and about advertising – slick, costly, boastful and almost certainly untrue’. This is possibly the case with the Green Party’s 2008 billboard and television advertising campaign, which is one of the most vacuous we’ve seen in New Zealand politics, and a sign that in this year’s campaign the Greens have given up all pretence of being anything other than an empty electoral-professional party of office-seeking politicians. The party used to abhor the commodification of politics, and its MPs used to criticise other parties for their use of marketers to sell party votes as if they are just another product like a box of soap powder on the supermarket shelf. But the new business-like marketing management-driven advertising campaign of the Greens suggests that the party has not merely lost its soul, but is actively selling off its soul. This professionalisation is indicative of a Green Party that is itself become more populist, pragmatic and vacuous. While this market-oriented professionalisation is perhaps most evident in the campaign of the Green Party, it is actually a trend that is strongly present throughout all the parliamentary parties fighting the 2008 general election campaign. Therefore rather than cover the whole election campaign, this in-depth blog post seeks to draw out the nature of the 2008 election using the Greens as a case study of modern hollow politics. [Read more below]
The Greens’ vacuous billboards
The Green Party billboards are the widely-acknowledged visual standout ‘success’ of the 2008 general election campaign – much in the same way that the National Party’s red-blue, iwi/Kiwi-type billboards were of the 2005 campaign. The main billboard showcases eight-year-old Aila Morgan-Guthrie standing by the harbour with Rangitoto Island in the background overlaid with the simple, but trite, slogan of ‘Vote for me’. Other versions of the billboards have either ‘Augustine’ on his skateboard and ‘Aotea’ on a swing (with the slightly modified slogan of ‘Vote for us’). Another billboard simply has an astronomic photo of the Earth behind the ‘Vote for me’ slogan.
John Ansell, the creative advertising professional behind National’s 2005 iwi/Kiwi billboards has heaped praise on the minimalism of the Greens Earth and child billboards, saying that ‘great ads are more about what you leave out than what you leave in’. In this case, what has been left out is… everything – no policies, no political programme, no ideology, no principles, etc. As one academic specialist in creative visual advertising has quipped, ‘If you replaced the Green Party logo with a National or Labour Party logo, would it make any difference?'
Indeed, others have compared the Greens’ beautiful but trite propaganda to the recent Air New Zealand emotive television ads in which a combination of New Zealand scenery, music and people attempt to tug at your heart strings. See, for example, the video here
Certainly the feel-good imagery of both ads is fairly interchangeable between the party and the airline business. So not only is it true, as one person has commented, that ‘You could put any party name at the bottom and it would mean the same thing’, but in fact you could put in any corporate name and this also wouldn’t look out of place.
When it comes to the Green Party television advertisements, the same vacuous billboard formula is repeated. The picture of the girl on the wharf is brought to life and a voiceover pronounces: ‘The world is changing. Politics needs to change with it.’ Again, surprisingly vacuous and trite. As one person commented in a blog discussion, ‘That’s it?! That’s their “clear message”? That’s their “core values”?’
Co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons has described the television ads in the glowing terms of a true salesperson:
Aila looks out at us from the wharf with the ocean behind her, with an honesty, a directness, a challenge that you don't often get from adults. Today you have seen her on screen, and she's just as stunning as on a static billboard.
It is surprising to see Fitzsimmons praising the ‘stunning’ looks of their beautiful advertising model, since the Greens have always abhorred the ‘beauty myth’ and the exploitation of beauty in commercial advertising. In effect the Greens have joined in on this ‘beauty myth’ by choosing to hunt out commercial photograph libraries to find perfect-looking beautiful children to trade on. At other times the Greens have even complained that businesses using children in advertising is unethical.
It’s not the first time that the Greens have traded on children in campaigns. In 2003 a Green Party-endorsed anti-GM petition encouraged mothers to sign on behalf of their unborn children. Fitzsimons was reported as saying it is legitimate for mothers to petition on behalf of their unborn children: ‘Who else is going to represent that unborn child but its mother? I've had two children myself - they were very much children before they were born’ (quoted in Milne, 14 Sep 2003: p.9).
It’s important to realize that some of the children in the advertising campaigns are actually models. The Greens’ advertising agency found Aila Morgan-Guthrie (the main girl-by-water billboard) through a commercial photo library, not via the Green Party. The photo was taken by her father, Alistair Guthrie who is a professional photographer. His commercial website is here. As TVNZ noted, her involvement occurred through ‘pure commercialism’ rather than political ‘conviction’. Alistair Guthrie was then employed to take all the cute-kid photos for advertising agency.
Some commentators have also noted that the iconic Rangitoto girl photograph appears to be a ‘fake’. Looked at closely it appears that Aila Morgan-Guthrie has actually been photographed in the studio in front of a ‘blue screen’ and then superimposed by Photoshop into the Mission Bay scene.
The Greens’ advertising agency
Traditionally the Green Party has produced its own election advertising, making the most of the creativity of its membership and activists. But it will come as no surprise that the 2008 billboards were produced by a professional advertising agency employed by the party.
The Greens decided to contract out their design and production of its political proganda by inviting four ad agencies to come to Wellington and pitch their ideas of how to popularize the party to the public at this years’ election. The party then chose Kingsland-based Auckland creative start-up Special Group.
The Green Party Campaign Manager, Gary Reese, announced their decision proclaiming the ad agency to be ‘strategically sharp and creatively innovative. We’re very excited about things to come’. The agency co-founder Heath Lowe excitedly stated that, ‘Never before have green issues been so close to the mainstream’ – indicating the approach and direction that the agency would take in repackaging the party. Special Group wanted to push the party as a warmer, friendly, middle-of-the-road option.
The Special Group is a small ad company made up of experienced marketers who have worked on campaigns for Audi, DB Breweries, Guess USA, Honda, Levis, Nike, Scottish Labour Party, Sky Television, Sony, Volkswagen, and Volvo. Below are some examples of the work that Special Group employees have worked on for Schweppes and Sony.
It might surprise some people to find that the Green Party has chosen to go into the same marketing stable as such multinational, ‘unethical’, ‘anti-environment’ firms. In fact the contract for the car manufacturer Volvo was worked on by Special Group around the same time as the campaign to sell the Greens. As can be seen below, the Special Group Volvo campaign utlised the same use of scenic New Zealand background to lend credence in some ads, and in others used a similar striking minimalism.
The industry and expert response
The response from the advertising industry and other commentators has been overwhelming. Local and international agencies and political commentators have praised the billboards. Below is a selection of comments about the Greens’ marketing campaign (many of which are from a NBR article about the billboards). The comments are very revealing about the newfound professionalisation of the party.
DDB advertising agency (Canada) Chief Creative Officer Alan Russell last week judged the billboards to be the best outdoor advertisement in the world of the week on BestAdsonTv.com. He said: ‘It’s so damn simple I ask myself, as with all the best work, why didn’t someone think of that before? Few words, striking photography, emotional appeal, clever, yep it’s got my vote’. See: Green Party Billboard Wins International Award
DDB advertising agency (NZ), Simon Wedde commented that the Greens’ advertising is simple, clean and compelling: ‘It talks to every parent's concern about the future and their kids, and cuts to the heart of the Greens’ message. But frankly, it is way more stylish and clever than they'll ever be as a party. It's a pity the ads are better than the product’.
TVNZ’s design and fashion blogger Sylvia Giles: ‘Amongst this racket, the Green Party has delivered a billboard that paints a clear and concise picture of where a vote for them will be headed – straight to our planet. The Greens tap not only into a colour with an obvious connection to their ideology, but a concept that has a pivotal place in our pseudo-identity as “Clean, Green New Zealand”. Set to the kind of impressive scenery’. See: More praise for Green billboards
Mike Hutcheson, of Lighthouse Ideas, (formerly of Colenso, Communicado, and Saatchi and Saatchi) told John Campbell on TV3’s Campbell Live: ‘Oh, they’re great. They are actually too flash for the Greens. They have someone who knows what they are doing do it for them’.
Claire Trevett, NZ Herald political journalist: ‘The party's billboards are by far the most effective on the hustings - emotive, attention-grabbing and a simple, strong expression of Green goals’.
Guyon Espiner, TVNZ political editor: ‘Their billboards though - photographs of cute kids and the words 'Vote for Me' - are great’.
Russell Brown, of Media 7 and Public Address blog: ‘By general acclaim, the Greens' campaign is the winner’
Gordon Campbell, Scoop website journalist and ex-Green Party media adviser: ‘For years to come, those “Vote For Me” spots with the child on the wharf will be cited as a model of good political communication – fresh, direct and conveying an emotional message utterly in sync with the Greens’ altruistic political brand’.
Ian Templeton, of the Trans-Tasman: ‘The billboard campaign “vote for us” was outstanding. They will pick up a lot of disaffected Labour voters’. See: Transtasman Campaign Winners and Losers
Chris Trotter, political commentator and blogger wrote:
The Greens have well and truly lifted the bar in the propaganda stakes… the Greens’ visual imagery for the 2008 General Election is light-years away from the lack-lustre effort which so marred their 2005 campaign…. The result is an immediate and powerful response, which, like John Ansell’s brilliant billboards of 2005, will almost certainly provoke one of those brow-smiting “Of course! Why didn’t I think of that?” reactions from marketing professionals…. I reckon it’s good enough to add two percentage points to the Greens’ Party Vote…. is already shaping up to be one of the iconic images of the 2008 General Election
John Ansell (who designed National’s 2005 billboards): ‘I can’t argue with the quality of their advertising. With one image and half a dozen well-chosen words, each ad strikes an emotional chord. Then it just as boldly asks for the sale. 1 girl, 6 words’.
And only a sales-oriented marketer of Ansell’s type could write the following paragraph in which he equates political marketing emptiness with substance:
a billboard is not an essay. Your market is hurtling towards your medium at 100k… You’ve got about three seconds to woo them and win them. And the Greens do that. They stand for something. Loudly and proudly. Their ads are big and bold and brave
M&C Saatchi head, Nick Baylis, ‘It clearly and refreshingly communicates the core philosophy of the party and more importantly, promises me a benefit in return for my vote’.
Barnes, Catmur & Friends creative managing partner Paul Catmur labeled the billboards as simple and charming: ‘Not hectoring or bombastic, just a simple reminder of what is at stake’.
DraftFCB creative director James Mok awarded the Greens’ ads 1st place in the campaign and praised their ‘distinctive positioning’ and strong focus: ‘It's a good distillation of what Green politics stand for with a clear “what’s in it for me” message’.
TBWA\Whybin head David Walden was reported as praising the ‘impressive and visually arresting images’ and proclaiming the ads as the best: ‘It’s the only one that looks as though it's had design input and strategic consideration’.
Yet the advertising industry isn’t entirely mindless, and there have been a few voices of reason and sanity:
Jane Berney, an AUT lecturer in advertising creativity: ‘My question to the “vote for me” approach would be - why? The Green billboards are engaging the heart of the viewer by using emotive images of children, but showing me the planet, sorry, they'll have to dig a little deeper’. She rated the Greens’ advertising as 5 out of 10.
AIM Proximity creative head Dave King: ‘they don't tell me anything I didn't already know’.
TBWA\Whybin head David Walden: ‘I'm not sure about the 'Vote for Me' message though – too generic’
The modern marketing approach of Rangitoto girl
So, just what are the Greens’ cute-kid and earth advertisements trying to say? With so few words on the ads it might be seen by some as a bit hard to know. But the vacuous element is no oversight or mistake. In fact it means that the ads are a perfect example of modern marketing theory in which ‘Traditional marketing is [see as] all talk and no trousers’ – see the Idealog article Blah, blah, blah by James Hurman. In this it’s explained that ‘In the advertising world, the 20th century was all about Saying Things’, but due to the backlash against advertising claims, nowadays ‘when it comes down to it, words are of limited power’. Instead, the objective of most advertising today is not to ’sell’ anything directly, but to build awareness of a brand.
In this sense the Green’s ad agency Special Group is trying to turn the Greens image into a brand in the same way that Apple or Google is an iconic brand that disavows the use of many words in its advertising. The ideas is that ‘claims about a product like the iPod are unnecessary because ‘the iPod is so darn good you don’t have to say anything about it’.
Therefore these ‘positioning’ billboards are drawing on voters to associate the Green Party with the positive and beautiful things in their pictures, while also attempting to push a more profound or trite (depending on your point of view) that you shouldn’t just vote for your own interests but in favour of future generations and that the implications are that by voting for the Greens you are altruistically voting in favour of children.
The professionalisation of the Greens
More than anything else, the Greens’ modern campaign represents the professionalization of the party – a transformation that has changed the intrinsic nature of the party and its politics. The Green Party MPs and activists are almost becoming secondary to the political marketers that heavily mould the message.
This heavily-branded approach is fairly typical amongst commercial products as well as the older, bigger main parties. As someone from the Act party commented about the Greens’ use of professional advertising: ‘It’s nothing different than any big company, or any other party would do. It is the face of modern advertising. I’m just surprised the Greens are doing it’. Likewise, another commenter on the Green’s blogsite said, ‘it amuses me that the Greens are using the same techniques they have been so dismissive of when others use them’.
Colin James has recently outlined this professionalisation of politics trend in an article entitle Marketing maxim: keep it crystal clear. James sums are the shift:
Political parties - the big ones at least - these days aim not just to "campaign" but to "market", to push "products" to "consumers". There's a small industry geared to it…. But until relatively recently, the politicians operated more by instinct, experience or ideology than by marketing wizardry. Armies of foot soldiers canvassed homes to identify supporters, delivered pamphlets and took supporters to the polling stations…. Leaders began to plump "values" instead of pumping ideology. Marketers devised techniques for sussing the market, defining and remoulding the product to meet the market and then selling it…. For the two main parties brand and image - of party and leader - are now as important as message and policy. They are road-tested with focus groups.
Well, the Greens have now joined this group. It’s a group, according to James, that has been forced into the process because they no longer have solid or distinct social bases of support in the electorate. The Greens are no different – the obtain their votes from across all social groups. This makes them act like the other parties in that they ‘must build "brand" loyalty to replace tribal and ideological loyalty - and continually re-earn loyalty with rewards to voters. That pushes them toward the market-oriented end of the spectrum’. James quote Jennifer Lees-Marshment in contrasting these market-oriented parties with the ‘sales-oriented’ end of the spectrum of parties that ‘aim to sell what they decide is best for the people’.
But does it work? The Greens newfound market-oriented approach is draw some criticism from sympathisers, such as Rob Egan, a Communications Advisor for the EPMU, who blogs (under the name IrishBill) on the Labour Party blog, The Standard. Egan wrote a post entitled The Greens’ billboards, too good? In which he asked whether the Greens are now treating voters like consumers:
One thing about the billboards disquiets me however, and that is that they are too brand aware. It’s an old saw of mine that the political process is becoming too commodified. That politics is being treated too much like an exercise in marketing a product that is related to the voter only in terms of their “purchase” in the polling booth.
I know the Greens need to play the game to get influence and achieve outcomes but at what point does playing the game come at the cost of your core beliefs?
The Green reaction against poor past performance
Partly the new-found belief in a highly market-driven campaign is a reaction against the Green’s incredibly poor 2005 election campaign which involved all the worst elements (and none of the best) of an amateur campaign. In particular, the Greens’ billboards were universally condemned as politically and creatively awful. These billboards were ugly, cluttered and contained bland but incoherent messages that attempted to be clever. See below:
Leftwing resistance to market-research politics
In the past there seems to have been more resistance to the introduction and increasing dominance of market research politics from the left of the political spectrum. This is probably mainly because left-wing parties are typically rich in human resources rather than capital resources, and are therefore less likely to take up what is an expensive option. The resistance of the left is possibly also due to the fact that the left has historically been more ideas- and ideology-orientated than the parties of the right, and genuine conviction politicians are not comfortable being users of market research politics.
Market-research politics has traditionally been a preoccupation of the rightwing side of the political spectrum. However, by the early-1980s the Labour Party had embraced wholeheartedly the concept of market research based campaigning. According to Bob Harvey, Simon Walker and himself ‘developed a new research package which would move away from simple polling to an understanding of the electorate's emotions’ (Harvey, Apr 1992: p.113). Importantly, the research also showed that the ‘less said about policy the better' (Harvey, 1992: p.106). This information was then used to good effect by a party eager to get itself back onto the Treasury benches. Ever since then, the Labour Party have been, like National, a very high-user of market research, and between 1996 and 1999 the Labour Party employed market research techniques on an unprecedented scale. Focus groups, opinion polls, graphic designers, and direct marketing is now the core of Labour Party election campaigns.
In recent elections the greatest opposition to the idea of market research politics in New Zealand has come from the Green Party and the Alliance, which are the parties least likely to engage in market research politics. This is mainly because these parties are very small and poorly financed, but it is also probably because of an ideological opposition to such ways of operating – it is worth noting that other MMP parties of a similar or smaller size that are on the right of the political spectrum have always been avid users of a heavy marketing approach.
For as long as the Green Party was a formal part of the Alliance coalition party, such marketing-orientations were kept in check. The leftwing of the Alliance was always very suspicious of marketing politics. Yet even in 1996 the pro-marketing elements of the Alliance – Anderton’s parliamentary media advisor John Pagani in particular – were influential in pushing the organization to make use of professional market politics. Subsequently the Alliance president Matt McCarten was reported as not being ‘a fan of focus groups. The Alliance got trapped into that last time [in 1996] and McCarten says it just emasculated the message' (Anderson, 28 Jul 1999: p.29).
When the Green Party finally broke away from the Alliance it was free to pursue a professionalised approach. When Rod Donald elaborated on the Greens’ 1999 election strategy he illustrated a close identification with market research politics:
We also defined our key target audiences: the "Values generation" (previous Values party voters), and those aged 18-25. Issues campaigns were also debated. The genetic engineering issue was gaining traction and we set out to make it our own' (Donald, 2000: p.50).
Donald also described how, in the late 1990s the Green Party decided to professionalise its image and concentrate more on its marketing:
High on our list of recommendations to the National Executive was a more professional image, consisting of a new logo: the word "Green", incorporating our traditional left in the G, and a strap line, "Quality of Life". A range of "visability raising" merchandise, a new membership brochure, other literature and signage soon followed, all in a consistent style (Donald, 2000: p.50).
The Greens have attempted to justify their newfound enthusiasm for a business-marketing approach to politics by painting their evolution in the colours of ‘little-New Zealand nationalism’. Whereas in the past the Greens could have pointed out the major parties as being the capital-intensive professional ones while the Greens have little money and are instead reliant on old fashioned campaigning techniques. But this line is no longer possible, as the party campaign is now run by paid marketing professionals. Therefore the Greens have had to attempt to take the high moral ground by asserting the nationalist element of their professionalisation.
Witness the spin from the Green media unit: ‘Just as proof that Buy Kiwi Made does work, this election’s campaigns have become a study in contrast’. The Greens characterized the Labour campaign as being run by US firm Blue State Digital and the National one by Australian firm Crosby Textor. In contrast, ‘there is the Greens’ future focused campaign to vote for something positive from little New Zealand company Special’. Furthermore,
The Greens have also used a locally owned market research company and are using a locally owned media buyer, as well as swathes of local on-the-ground volunteers (and some overseas volunteers) to put together its election campaign. Which all just shows promoting kiwi made does work.
And again when the Greens launched their televison campaign, the party was at pains to emphasize that the marketing experts exmployed were Kiwis, and ‘the television ads are a triumph of kiwi talent’.
The effect on Green Party politics
The growing dominance of a media-centred, commodified politics has significant consequences for political parties. In one sense, it further propels the trend of party politics towards a non-policy orientation, with party professionals concentrating on pushing ‘what looks good on TV’.
That market research techniques are now so prevalent is of special importance to the way that political parties and the party system are developing and changing. Their use does not just affect the technocratic operations of parties, but their whole political nature. First, the use of polling has a tendency to increase the pragmatic nature of parties – turning them into market-led organisations, rather than market-leading parties. A party that is swayed by every change in the emotions and prejudices of the public is a great distance from the traditional practice of firstly formulating policies based on the ideology of the party and then using election campaigns and activity in Parliament to persuade the public of the merits of those policies. Clearly when a market research approach is driving a political party this focuses it on what will get MPs elected rather than any more virtuous, principled or longer-term political goals.
Market research politics could also be said to produce political stagnation by discouraging policy advancement and risk-taking. By being market-led in their policies rather than preference-setting, parties are not advancing ideas, only throwing the same ones back to the public that they have discovered through focus groups and the like. As a partial reflection of this, the Green Party now offers little that is new – preferring instead to repeat back to voters a concern for the issues that their market research has told them were already of general concern. The extensive use of the modern marketing strategies therefore exposes so-called ‘conviction politicians’ and ideological or principled political parties as something else completely. The Greens strong adoption of political commodification shows the decline of their convictions.
The use of market research, it could be argued, means that parties like the Greens are inclined to develop in more populist ways. When searching for the right itch to scratch, the market research technique is likely to come up with easy answers to the media and public’s sometimes fickle and prejudiced views. This is especially the case due to the fact that the most populist, short-lived prejudices are easily tracked by market research. Opinion polling is a very blunt instrument, and is not always able to discern more complex sentiments amongst the population. Such market research is very likely to pick up on people’s anxieties and their more simplistic reactions and answers to issues.
Undoubtedly market research inevitably pushes parties to have similar policies – increasing the catch-all nature of parties. Firstly, this is because the parties are formulating their policies and strategies based on similar research: ‘Given that they do similar research, rival parties get to learn the voters' views with roughly equal precision (and misprecision) and are thus encouraged to adopt not just similar tactics but also similar policies' (Atkinson, May 1993: p.120). University of Auckland political scientist Joe Atkinson also outlines how this effect of market research is a logical extension of a general modern tendency of the parties to converge:
By confining campaign platforms to issues of proven appeal, market research has the effect of robbing elections of genuine policy differences. However anti-democratic this may be, it has a crudely utilitarian logic. The economic theory of elections suggests that any clear policy position is going to alienate someone, and if your goal is to maximise votes by seeking the ideological middle ground, it is better to fudge the issues wherever their popularity is in doubt. As a result, the modern election resembles nothing so much as a beauty pageant, or, to cite the recent Australian case, a squabble between two equally boring men (Atkinson, May 1993: p.122).
The increase or dominance of market research-type electioneering means that parties like the Greens are transformed even further into “products” or consumer commodities. The commodification of the parties is another logical conclusion of developments in New Zealand politics. As Ralston has argued ‘This is not politicking; it is pure marketing. And it works as long as you don’t mind a political party being sold like a bar of soap' (Ralston, Aug 1997: pp.132-133). Political marketing illustrates that most political parties – the Greens included – now stand for little. Market research politics means that parties simply ‘find out what voters most want and promote that’ (James, 2001: p.203).
For all the above reasons the increase in market research politics has contributed to the mixed up state of party politics in New Zealand in the last 15 years. Market research breaks down the traditional relationship between a party and its ideology and its support base, because the party now adopts political positions not on the basis of any coherent ideological framework, but instead on the basis of opinion polls etc. This obviously only further encourages voter volatility and a disconnection between party and voter. Voter volatility is increased because the parties are no longer anchored in principles but in the capricious sea-change of public opinion.
There should be no doubt that the Green Party has reduced its campaign to a much more narrow focus than in the past. The breadth of campaign issues pushed by the party has narrowed significantly. As the party itself has stated, it ‘is concentrating on three policy areas - greenhouse gases, dependency on oil, and food safety’.
Green negative advertising and viral video
The advertising agency advised the Green Party to use an element of negative advertising in their campaign – involving attack ads against their opponents. But because such an approach can be counterproductive – especially because it would conflict with the party’s main campaign which attempted to be positive, it was recommended that negative advertising be only put out to that segment of the Greens’ market that would be receptive – the youth vote.
Hence a new campaign was devised entitled ‘Some things are bigger than politics’, in which a more aggressive and non-traditional approach would be taken with the use of viral online videos, posters, and t-shirts. The attention of this campaign was to tap into the anti-political mood amongst youth, those less inclined to vote, and those generally alienated by party politics. Hoardings, posters and t-shirts were designed that reflected this more anti-political message.
A faux-amateur video was created by the advertising agency that advanced negative attack messages very strongly - view it here. In the press release accompanying the launch of the viral video on YouTube, the Greens announced their new aggressive approach by stating that ‘There are no sacred cows as far as the Greens are concerned’. Although the party claimed that the message was positive by ‘juxtaposes the trivial and time-wasting bickering of the mainstream political parties with the work the Greens consider to be the real business of politics’, it was effectively dealing in the type of personal attacks that the Greens previously claimed to abhor. The video made fun of the physical fight between Labour’s Trevor Mallard and National’s Tau Henare by superimposing Trevor Mallard’s head onto the animated image of the body of a boxer etc. Others on the receiving end of personal attacks were John Key and Ron Mark. The Greens called it a ‘a humorous viral video’.
Ironically, during the campaign the Green Party parliamentary media unit put out a communication on the party blog to deplore the ‘emergence of US style attack campaigning’ in the New Zealand campaign. Pointing the finger at Labour and stating that the move is ‘disappointing’, they said that:
when parties have only 15 or 30 seconds of advertising time to get their message across and they choose to use that to abuse or denigrate their opponents it shows a lack of vision and commitment to improving things for New Zealanders. Under MMP attacking the opposition rather than promoting yourself misses the point
The Greens were therefore being rather hypocritical on this. And their campaign slogan of Some things are bigger than politics suddenly appeared rather self-serving.
A leadership makeover
Apparently the marketing-minded experts have even given the Green leadership a makeover. Co-leader Russel Norman has been transformed in appearance from the beardy-hippy look to the “banker in conservative suit and tie” with a short-back-and-sides haircut.
Before and after
Before and after
It is notable that other Green MPs and candidates have been incredibly invisible in the Greens’ national campaign, because the party has been replicating the more hierarchal and leadership-focused methods of the older and more conventional parties.
The Green Party is set to become the third largest party in Parliament. To get there the party has decided to take a qualitatively different approach to the past. And this blog post has sought to evaluate their new approach.
This blog post might seem to be a bit harsh in critiquing the Greens simply for their adoption of a professionalised marketing approach. But the example is entirely indicative of the party as a whole and the direction that it has been heading in. After all, co-leader Russel Norman keeps stressing how ‘mainstream’ the Green Party is, which is another way of trying to avoid scaring the horse (or the bourses!).
And of course, the Greens new ad campaign is great IF you don’t mind your politics sold in the same way as a box of soap powder. If, however, you expect politics to be qualitatively different from the corporate world of marketing management, then you will e disappointed with the vacuous nature of the Green Party.
It goes to show that although Russel Norman night be exactly right to often characterize Labour and National as ‘Mother Coke and Father Pepsi’, but increasingly the Greens also seem to taste like merely another variation of cola. The Greens might be some sort of herbal or organic cola, but their taste is pretty much the same as all the other parties brands of liquids.